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Jan Janszoon Van Haarlem, aka Murad Reis
The Pirate King of the Barbary Coast

c. 1575-c. 1641

a Salé corsair

Jan Janszoon Van Haarlem

About 1575 a child, later christened Jan, was born in the city of Haarlem, North Holland, the Netherlands. Jan grew up an average Dutch boy, and when he reached maturity, he married a local girl whose name is unknown. Lysbeth Van Salee was born to this union in 1596. There were likely other children.

Jan Janszoon Van Haarlem was Jan's full Dutch name: Jan his given or Christian name, Jansen his patronymic or patrilineal name, and Van Haarlem his toponymic surname. Jan was the brief Dutch form for Johannes, or John in English. Janszoon or Jansen, a patronymic name, according to Dutch custom, indicated who his father was, literally Jan's son. Sometimes a person's complete name would consist of only two names such as Jan Janszoon. Some persons, usually the upper class, would have an additional name, as we have surnames today. His surname was toponymic, that is, based on his place or origin. Van Haarlem meant that he was from the city of Haarlem.

He was destined to become a pirate king on the Barbary Coast in North Africa. Jan was known in the English speaking world as Captain John, John Barber and Little John Ward. His Arabic names were Caid Morato, Morat, Morat Rais, Murad, Murad Reis, Mutare Reis, Morato Reis and Murat Reis. Reis or rais in Arabic means captain.

Cartagena, Spain
Salé is just north of Rabat on the west coast of Morocco.

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About 1600 Jan Janszoon became a merchant seaman, and one of his ports of call was Cartagena, Murcia, Spain. He married a second wife in Cartagena. She was probably a Mudejar, a Muslim who belonged to a family employed by a Christian Spanish noble. Having two wives was permitted by Islam, the Muslim religion. Jan had several children by her, one of which was Anthony Jansen Van Salee.

Anthony Jansen's marriage certificate, dated December 15, 1629, in Amsterdam, North Holland, the Netherlands, gave him permission to marry onboard the vessel on the way to New Amsterdam, New Netherland. That certificate, in the Gemeente Archief in Amsterdam, states that Anthony Jansen was from Cartagena. I believe he was born there. A possible reason for being married aboard ship by the captain was that Anthony's mother in Cartagena was a Muslim, and therefore had raised her child in that faith.

Anthony Jansen is believed to be the ancestor of the Vanderbilts, the Whitneys, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Humphrey Bogart.

Abraham Van Salee was born about 1602 and Philip Van Salee about 1604, both children of Jan's wife in Cartagena.

Salé, Morocco

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Jan Janszoon, Privateer

Jan Janszoon sailed from La Rochelle in 1605 with letters of marque to capture Spanish pirates from Duinkerken, a town on the coast of France that is also known as Dunkirk and Dunkerque. In 1559 Spain attacked and conquered it. The port became one of the three main bases of operation for Spanish privateers in the years 1583-1609 and 1621-1646 during the 80-year War between the Dutch Republic and Spain. From 1609 to 1621 a truce existed, but the depredations of the privateers, who turned to piracy, continued unabated.

1607 Anthony Jansen Van Salee was born at Cartagena, Spain in 1607, and Cornelis Jansen Van Salee the next year. The Moriscos and Mudejares were expelled from Spain in 1610, and the Jan Janszoon's Cartagena family certainly moved to Salé, Morocco, as did most of the others.

Jan Janszoon, Pirate King

In 1618 Jan Janszoon was captured at Lancerote, Canary Islands, by the corsairs, and taken to Algiers, Algeria, where he became a corsair himself. His base of operations was Algiers. He sailed with Van Veenboer, aka Sulayman Rais, who quit to shore that same year, and Jan become rais or captain of Sulayman's ship.

Jan Janszoon did not protect the crews of Dutch ships as De Veenboer did. Attacking a Spanish ship he flew the Dutch flag, for others he sailed under the red half moon of the Turks.

Algiers made peace with some of the European nations about 1619, forcing Jan to set up shop in Salé, Morocco. That same year Salé declared a semi-independent pirate republic and became the home base for the Sally Rovers. He was elected Admiral of the corsair fleet at Salé and President of the city. Beginning in 1619 Jan Janszoon built about 17 fast corsairs.

On a raiding expedition in 1620, a Dutch merchant ship raised the red flag of no quarter, and bluffed Jan into fleeing for safety.

In 1622 Jan Janszoon is converted to Islam and became a renegado. Sporting the Moccocan flag and claiming diplomatic immunity, he entered the port of Veere, Zealand, the Netherlands, for repairs in November. The Dutch brought his wife and children to the dock to try to convince him to return home. Doubtless he was already supporting the family. A number of Dutch seamen join Jan Janszoon's crew, contrary to the wishes of the Dutch government. Leaving Veere, he attacked several French ships.

About 1623, Sultan Moulay Ziden laid seige to Salé, but failed to capture it. To save face, Moulay Ziden appointed Jan Janszoon Governor of Salé. Jan married a third time to a Moorish woman in 1624, the daughter the Sultan, to cement the friendship. This counted as only two wives because the first was a Christian. He probably had children from her as well.

1626 Jan Janszoon captured a Spanish ship in 1626, and docked at Veere, Zealand, to sell it. The next year he sailed out and moved his base of operations to Algiers. He led a raiding fleet to Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland the following year, and returned toAlgiers with booty and 400 slaves for sale.

There was a famine in Morocco in 1629, and he sent two of his sons, Abraham and Anthony, to Amsterdam, North Holland, the Netherlands. Anthony Van Salee married Grietje Reyniers onboard a ship in transit to New Amsterdam, New Netherland. In 1635 Jan Janszoon participated in a truce between the Sa'adian Sultan el Walid and Louis XIII.

The Sack of Baltimore

Jan Janszoon was at the Sack of Baltimore at Cork, Ireland, in 1631, and returned to Algiers with booty and 108 slaves for sale.

Oh! Some must tug the galley's oar, and some must tend the steed;
This boy will bear a Sheik's chibouk,* and that a Bey's jerreed.*
Oh! Some are in the arsenals, by beauteous Dardanelles;
And some are in the caravan to Mecca's sandy dells.

The maid that Bandon gallant sought is chosen for the Dey:
She's safe - he's dead - she stabbed him in the Midst of his serai;*
And when, to die a death of fire, that noble maid they bore,
She only smiled - O'Driscoll's child - she thought of Baltimore.

From The Sack of Baltimore byThomas Davis
*A chibouk, or chibouque, was a Turkish tobacco pipe with a long stem and a red clay bowl. A jerreed, or djereed, was a blunt javelin used in military games in Muslem countries. A serai was a sultan's palace, a seraglio.

He was captured by the Maltese Knights in 1635. Four year later, his son Anthony Van Salee and wife Grietje Reyniers were expelled from New Amsterdam, finding refuge on Long Island. The next year, Jan Janszoon escaped from the Knights of Malta after five years of captivity.

Oualidia, Morocco

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Jan Janszoon Retired

When Jan returned, the Sultan appointed him Governor of Oualidia in southern Morocco. Jan Janszoon Van Haarlem served as Governor of the Castle of Maladia, on the west coast of Morocco from 1640-1641.

His daughter Lysbeth Van Haarlem and her husband visit Jan during those years at the castle. 1641 was the last year of record for Jan, and he must have died soon after. His body lies in an unmarked grave, according to Muslim custom.

The Background

The Moors in Spain

When the Christian conquest of Spain was completed in 1492 by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella la Catolica, they proceeded to expel all Jews an Moors from the kingdom. But the Moiscos and Mudejares were allowed to remain.

The Moors, were a nomadic people of North Africa, Berbers, originally inhabitants of Mauretania. They became Muslims in the 8th century and went to Spain in 711, where they overran the Visigoths. They spread northward across the Pyrenees into France but were turned back by Charles Martel in 732. In Southern Spain, however, they established the Umayyad emirate, later caliphate, at Cordoba. The court grew in wealth, splendor, and culture. Other centers of Moorish culture were Toledo, Granada, and Seville. The Moors never established a stable central government. In the 11th centuty the caliphate fell, and Moorish Spain was captured by the Almoravids, who were supplanted in 1174 by the Almohads. During this period, Christian rulers continued efforts in Northern Spain to recapture the south. In 1085 Alfonso VI of Leon and Castile recovered Toledo. Cordoba fell in 1236, and one by one the Moorish strongholds surrendered. The last Moorish city, Granada, fell to Ferdinand V and Isabella I in 1492. Most of the Moors were driven from Spain, but two groups, the Mudejares and Moriscos, remained.


Almoravid Dynasty, which ruled Morocco from 1055, ended in 1147 with the rise of the Almohad Dynasty. Almohad rule ended in 1269 when a Berber tribe, the Marinids, from the High Plateaus seized control. The Marinid Dynasty ruled until 1465. Piracy began to flourish along the Barbary Coast. Coastal cities reaped benefit from the slaves and treasure taken from merchant ships. The Ottomans protected the corsairs for centuries, and reigned free in the Mediterranean and along the Atlantic coast until the Europeans challenged them in the late 18th century with superior weapons. The Marinid Dynasty was followed by the Wattasid Dynasty (1465-1549), and then the Sa'adian Dynasty 1549-1659. During this dynasty, Jan Janszoon was born. He was to become involved in Sa'adian politics and trade.

The Moriscos

The Moriscos, were Moors who had converted to Christianity after the Christian reconquest in the 11th to the 15th centuries in Spain. The religion and customs of Muslims in the Christian parts of Spain were generally respected until the fall of Granada in 1492. Moors who refused conversion were forcibly baptized. They unsuccessfully rebelled between 1500 and 1502. Although most Moors accepted conversion, the others were persecuted by the Inquisition. The Moriscos rose in a bloody rebellion between 1568 and 1571, which was put down by King Philip II. They prospered in spite of persecution, but Philip decreed in 1609 their expulsion for both religious and political reasons. The Moriscos left Spain in 1610 for the Barbary Coast in North Africa.

The Mudejares

The Mudejares were the Muslims who cooperated with the Christians in the reconquest of Spain from its Moorish rulers. They remained after the expulsion in 1492, and who worked for Christian nobles on their country estates.

The Barbary Coast

Barbary Coast is not an Arabic place name; it was a name given to the coast of Morocco by the Europeans from 16th century through the 20th century. The word Barbary is derived from the word Berbers, the name of the ancient inhabitants of the region.

The countries of northern Africa that lie along the Mediterranean Sea comprise the Barbary Coast. The countries are Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. The name became associated with pirates of the 16th through 19th centuries.

The Town of Salé
from an 18th century account

The twin town of Rabat-Sallee, perhaps the scene of as much misery as any spot between Agadir and Algiers, is built on the banks of the Guerrou, (Bou-ragrag) which falls from the mountains of the Zoavais, and divides into two parts. That on the north part is called by the natives Sela (S'la), but by us Sallee. It is encompassed by good walls, about six fathoms (36 ft) high and two yards and a half (7 ft 6 ins) thick, composed of clay, red sand and lime. On the top of the walls are battlements flanked with good towers. The other part of the town which lies on the south side of the river is called Raval, (Arraval, or, Rabat, 34.0N 7.0W, “the side of the river on which the Europeans reside”) and occupies a much larger compass than the former. Within the circumference of this town are abundance of gardens, and a large field, where they might sow corn enough to serve 1,500 men. Its walls are very ancient; the natives say they were built by the first Christians who were brought out of Europe by the generals of Jacob Almanzor, king of Arabia Felix who conquered Spain. On the south-east quarter stands a high tower called Hasans, which serves as a landmark for ships to come in. At the foot of this mountain are docks for building ships, and for them to winter in. The ascent of this hill is so gentle that a man may ride on horseback to the top. “Sallee has two castles. The old stands directly at the mouth of the river Guerrou. Its walls are built on rocks, and very lofty, sheltering the governor's house, which joins to them, from any cannon shot. This castle is very irregular. Within this castle, and before its principal gate, is a high fort, which commands the town. Below, next to the sea, on the point of the rock facing the bar, is a bastion, mounted with five pieces of cannon, to secure the vessels which come in to an anchor in the road, and cover the retreat of the Corsairs, when pursued by the Christians. The new castle is situated on the south-west of the town. It was built by Murly Archy. There is a communication from one castle to the other by a high wall flanked with two towers, and built upon arches, under which the people pass when they go to walk upon the strand (beach). There are in this castle twelve pieces of brass cannon. The chief riches of this place consist in its piracies, the Sallee Rovers (the Salletines, or Slani, as they call themselves,) being the most expert and daring of any on the Barbary. The town is very well described by Mr. H. C. Browne in the English Illustrated Magazine for February, 1890, pp. 396-402.

The Privateer

A privateer was either a commander or a member of the crew of an armed vessel commissioned by a government with letters of marque. Letters of marque were given to a private person to fit out an armed ship and use it to attack, capture and plunder enemy merchant ships or war vessels in time of war. Captured ships had to be brought before an admiralty court to ensure they were a legal prize.

The Corsair

A corsair was a pirate who cruised the ocean with an armed vessel, without a commission from any sovereign state, seizing and plundering merchant vessels or making booty on land. A corsair was also a piratical vessel, sometimes a privateer.

The Rais

A rais, or reis, was a king or captain who commanded Barbary pirate cruisers and ruled an African state.

The Renegado

A renegado was one of the most hated of the raises. They were Europeans who had become leaders of the Turks. From renegado came the terms renegade, a turncoat, and renege, to go back on one's word. Such a person was a former Christian who became a pirate, converted to Islam and preyed on European cargo ships from bases on the North African coast.

Salé, Morocco

Salé was an independent corsair republic, across a small river from Rabat, Morocco. Salé has also been called Salli, Salee Sallee and Sally. Roving pirates from Salé were called the Sally Rovers by the British. There were several British sea shanties about the Rover's fearsome ways.

The Koran

The Religion of Islam

Judaism, Christianity and Islam were the three great monotheistic religions that came out of the Middle East. Adherents of all three religions were to be found in the Americas in the 17th and 18th centuries. The followers of Islam called the Jews and Christians the People of the Book, because they too believed in the Prophets. The new idea was that Mohammed was the final Prophet, and his teachings replaced that of the others. The holy book of Islam is the Koran.

The religion of Islam, a word which means surrender to God, is far too complicated to explain in detail here. However the Five Pillars of Islam will give us a basis for further study.

The Five Pillars of Islam

1. Profess faith by repeating the phrase, "There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet."

2. Pray five times a day, following special rituals, such as washing beforehand, facing Mecca, bowing and kneeling.

3. Give alms and show charity to the poor.

4. Practice the ritual fast during the month of Ramadan.

5. Make the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, at least once if you have the health and means.

A verse from the Koran

The Moroccan Dynasties

The sultan was the sovereign ruler of the Muslim state. In pre-colonial Morocco sultans resided in Marrakech, Fès and Meknès, the old imperial capitals. Moulay was a title borne by the male members of the sharifian dynasty, except for those named Mohammed, who were always referred to as Sidi Mohammed.

Almoravid Dynasty 1055-1147
Almohad Dynasty 1130-1269
Marinid Dynasty 1269-1465
Wattasid Dynasty 1465-1549
The Sa'adian Dynasty 1549-1659
The Alawite Dynasty 1659-Present

The Sa'adian Dynasty
Sultans of Morocco

            1. Abu Abdallah Mohammed II el Mehdi 1540-1557
               |                                       |   |
2. Abu Mohammed Abdullah I el Ghalib                   |   |
               |                                       |   |
3. Abu Abdallah Mohammed III el Mutawakkil 1574-1576   |   |
                _______________________________________|   |
               |                                           |
4. Abu Merwan Abd el Melik I el Ghazi 1576-1578            |
                           5. Abul Abbas Ahmed II el Mansur 1578-1603
               |                                      |
6. Zidan el Nasir 1603-1628 Marrakech                 |
               |                                      |
               |               7. Mohammed IV el Mamoum 1610-1613 Fès
               |                                      |
               |               8. Abdullah II 1613-1624 Fès
               |___________________________________   |
               |                                   |  |
9. Abu Merwan Abd el Melik II 1623-1631 Marrakech  |  |
                ___________________________________|  |
               |                                      |
               |              10. Abd el Melik III 1624-1626 Fès
               |                  |
11. El Walid 1631-1636 Marrakech  |
                   12. Mohammed V el Asghar 1636-1654
                   13. Ahmed III el Abbas 1654-1659

The Alawid Dynasty
Sultans of Morocco

                1. Mohammed I ibn es Cherif 1632-1635
               |                  |                  |
2. Mohammed II 1635-1664          |                  |
                                  |                  |
                                  |     3. Moulay er Rachid 1664-1672
                  4. Moulay Ismael es Samin 1664-1672
               |__5. Moulay Ahmed ed Dhahabi 1727-1728
               |__6. Moulay Abd el Melik 1728
               |__7. Moulay Abdallah 1729-1735 1736 1740-1745
               |                     1745-57 1757     |
               |                                      |
               |__8. Moulay Ali el Araj 1735-1736     |
               |                                      |
               |__9. Sidi Mohammed 1736-1738          |
               |                                      |
               |_10. Moulay Moustadi 1738-1740 1759   |
               |                                      |
               |_11. Moulay Zein el Abdin 1745        |
                 12. H. M. Sidi Mohammed III 1757-1790
               |_13. H. M. Moulay El Yazid 1790-1792
               |_14. H. M. Moulay Hicham 1790-1795 1795-1797
               |_15. H. M. Moulay Sliman 1796-1822

Dutch-Moroccan Timeline

1549 the Sa'adian dynasty assumes rule in Morocco
1574-1576 Sultan Abu Abdallah Mohammed III el Mutawakkil accedes
1575 Jan Janszoon Van Haarlem born
1576-1578 Sultan Abu Merwan Abd el Melik I el Ghazi accedes
1578-1603 Marrakech and Fès, Sultan Abul Abbas Ahmed el Mansur accedes
1595 aboutt, Jan Janszoon marries a Dutch wife
1596 Lysbeth Van Salee is born
1600 about, Jan Janszoon becomes a merchant seaman
1602 Abraham Van Salee is born
1603-1628 Marrakech, Sultan Ziden en Nasir accedes
1604 Philip Van Salee is born
1605 Jan Janszoon is a privateer and sailed from La Rochelle
1605 Jan Janszoon sails with letters of marque to capture pirates from Duinkerken
1607 Anthony Jansen Van Salee is born at Cartagena, Spain
1608 Cornelis Jansen Van Salee is born
1610-1613 Fès, Sultan Mohammed IV el Mamoum accedes
1610 The Moriscos are expelled from Spain
1610 The Moriscos flee to Salé, Morocco
1613-1624 Fès, Sultan Abdullah II accedes
1618 Jan Janszoon captured at Lancerote, Canary Islands
1618 Jan Janszoon is taken to Algiers, Algeria
1618 Jan Janszoon becomes a corsair based in Algiers
1618 Jan Janszoon sails with Van Veenboer, aka Sulayman Rais
1618 Sulayman Rais temporarily quits to shore
1618 Jan Janszoon becomes rais or captain of Sulayman's ship
1619 about, Algiers makes peace with some of the European nations
1619 Jan Janszoon sets up shop in Salé, Morocco
1619 Salé, Morocco, declared a semi-independent pirate republic
1619 Salé, Morocco becomes the home base for the Sally Rovers
1619 Jan Janszoon elected Admiral of the corsair fleet at Salé
1619 Jan Janszoon is elected the President of Salé
1619 Jan Janszoon builds about 17 fast corsairs
1620 Dutch merchant ship raises red flag of no quarter, bluffs Jan Janszen
1622 Jan Janszoon is converted to Islam
1622 Jan Janszoon becomes a renegado
1622 Jan Janszoon enters the port of Veere, Zealand, Neth., for repairs
1622 November, Jan Janszoon's wife and children paraded at Veere, Holland
1622 a number of Dutch seamen join Jan Janszoon's crew
1622 Jan Janszoon attacks several French ships
1623-1631 Marrakech, Sultan Abu Merwan Abd Melik II accedes
1623 about, the Sultan lays seige to Salé, Morocco, but fails to capture it
1624 Sultan Moulay Ziden appoints Jan Janszoon Governor of Salé
1624 Jan Janszoon marries a third time to a Moorish woman
1624-1626 Fès, Sultan Abd el Melik III accedes
1626 Jan Janszoon captures Spanish ship
1626 Jan Janszoon docks at Veere, Holland, to sell the Spanish ship
1627 Jan Janszoon sails from Veere
1627 Jan Janszoon moves operations to Algiers
1627 Jan Janszoon raided Reykjavik, capital city of Iceland
1627 Jan Janszoon returns to Algiers with booty and slaves for sale
1629 There is a famine in Morocco
1629 Jan Janszoon sends his sons Abraham and Anthony to Amsterdam, Holland
1629 Sultan Moulay el Malek is assassinated
1629 Anthony Van Salee marries Grietje Reyniers
1631 the Alawi dynasty assumes rule in Morocco
1631 Jan Janszoon participates in truce beteen Sultan el Walid and Louis XIII
1631-1635 Sultan Ibn es Cherif accedes
1631-1636 Marrakech, Sultan el Walid accedes
1631 Jan Janszoon leads the Sack of Baltimore, Cork, Ireland
1631 Jan Janszoon returns to Algiers with booty and 200 slaves for sale
1635-1664 Sultan Mohammed II accedes
1635 Jan Janszoon is captured by the Maltese Knights
1636-1654 Marrakech, Sultan Mohammed V el Asghar accedes
1639 Anthony Van Salee and Grietje Reyniers expelled from N. A.
1640 Jan Janszoon escapes from the Knights of Malta after captivity
1640 Jan Janszoon is appointed Governor of Oualidia in southern Morocco
1640-1641 Jan Janszoon Van Haarlem is Gov. of Castle Maladia, west coast
1640 Lysbeth Van Haarlem and husband visit Jan Janszoon at Maladia
1641 after, Jan Janszoon dies, the leas year of record

The Barbary Pirates
an encyclopedia article

Barbary Pirates. The coast population of northern Africa has in past ages been addicted to piratical attacks on the shores of Europe opposite. Throughout the decline of the Roman empire, the barbarian invasions, the Mohommedan conquest and the middle ages, mere piracy always existed by the side of the great strife of peoples and religions. In the course of the 14th century, when the native Berber dynasties were in decadence, piracy became particularly flagrant. The town of Bougie† was then the most notorious haunt of these skimmers of the sea. But the savage robber powers which, to the disgrace of Europe, infested the commerce and the coasts, not only of the Mediterranean but even for a time of the ocean; who were not finally suppressed till the 19th century was well advanced; and who are properly known as the Barbary pirates, arose in the 16th century, attained their greatest height in the 17th, declined gradually throughout the 18th and were extinguished about 1830. Isolated cases of piracy have occurred on the Rif coast of Morocco even in our time, but the pirate communities which lived by plunder and could live by no other resource, vanished with the French conquest of Algiers in 1830. They are intimately connected with the general history of northern Africa from about 1492 to their end.
† Bejaïa (formerly Bougie) A port on the Mediterranean coast of north-east Algeria; pop. (1989) 124,000. Capital of the Vandals in the 5th century, the city was rebuilt by the Berbers in the 11th century and was an important cultural and commercial centre. It later became a stronghold of the Barbary pirates and in the 20th century developed as a seaport trading in oil, minerals, grain, and fruit.

In dealing with the pirates, it will be sufficient to note a few leading dates. The conquest of Granada in 1492 by the Catholic sovereigns of Spain drove the Moors into exile. They revenged themselves by piratical attacks on the Spanish coast. They had the help of Moslem adventurers from the Levant, of whom the most successful were Arouj and his brother Khair-ed-Din,†† natives of Mitylene, both of whom were known to the Christians by the nickname of Barbarossa or "Redbeard." Spain in self-defence began to conquer the coast towns of Oran, Algiers and Tunis. Arouj having fallen in battle with the Spaniards in 1518, his brother Khair-ed-Din appealed to Selim, the sultan of Turkey, who sent him troops. He drove the Spaniards in 1529 from the rocky island in front of Algiers, where they had a fort, and was the founder of the Turkish power. From about 1518 till the death of Uluch Ali in 1587, Algiers was the main seat of government of the beylerbeys of northern Africa, who ruled over Tripoli, Tunisia and Algeria. From 1587 till 1659, they were ruled by Turkish pashas, sent from Constantinople to govern for three years; but in the latter year a military revolt in Algiers reduced the pashas to nonentities. From 1659 onwards, these African cities, though nominally forming parts of the Turkish empire, were in fact anarchical military republics which chose their own rulers and lived by plunder.
†† Barbarossa or "Redbeard" (c. 1465 - 1546) Raised on Lesbos, he moved to Djerba with his three brothers when their father died. Scorning both the weakness of the Muslim rulers and the presence of Iberian invaders in North Africa, the brothers undertook a campaign of brutal piracy. They formed a principality on Djidjelli, but Spain captured their land in 1518. Barbarossa, now the head of the family, was saved from annihilation by the sultan of Turkey, and for the rest of his life he worked for the sultan. He conquered Tunis for the Ottomans (1534) and permanently loosened Spain's grip on North Africa.

It may be pointed out that during the first period (1518—1587) the beylerbeys were admirals of the sultan, commanding great fleets and conducting serious operations of war for political ends. They were slave-hunters and their methods were ferocious, but their Christian enemies were neither more humane nor more chivalrous. After 1587, plunder became the sole object of their successors— plunder of the native tribes on land and of all who went upon the sea. The maritime side of this long-lived brigandage was conducted by the captains, or reises, who formed a class or even a corporation. Cruisers were fitted out by capitalists and commanded by the reises. Ten per cent of the value of the prizes was paid to the treasury of the pasha or his successors, who bore the titles of Agha or Dey or Bey. Bougie was the chief shipbuilding port and the timber was mainly drawn from the country behind it. Until the 17th century the pirates used galleys, but a Flemish renegade of the name of Simon Danser taught them the advantage of using sailing ships. In this century, indeed, the main strength of the pirates was supplied by renegades from all parts of Christendom. An English gentleman of the distinguished Buckinghamshire family of Verney was for a time among them at Algiers. This port was so much the most formidable that the name of Algerine came to be used as synonymous with Barbary pirate, but the same trade was carried on, though with less energy, from Tripoli and Tunis, as also from towns in the empire of Morocco, of which the most notorious was Salli. The introduction of sailing ships gave increased scope to the activity of the pirates. While the galleys, being unfit for the high seas, were confined to the Mediterranean and the coast, the sailing vessels ranged into the Atlantic as far as the Canaries or even to Iceland. In 1631 a Flemish renegade, known as Murad Reis,††† sacked Baltimore in Ireland. and carried away a number of captives who were seen in the slave-market of Algiers by the French historian Pierre Dan.
††† Murad Reis: This is an earlier pirate. Murad was a fairly common Arabic name.

The first half of the 17th century may be described as the flowering time of the Barbary pirates. More than 20,000 captives were said to be imprisoned in Algiers alone. The rich were allowed to redeem themselves, but the poor were condemned to slavery. Their masters would not in many cases allow them to secure freedom by professing Mahommedanism. A long list might be given of people of good social position, not only Italians or Spaniards, but German or English travelers in the south, who were captives for a time. The chief sufferers were the inhabitants of the coasts of Sicily, Naples and Spain. But all traders belonging to nations which did not pay blackmail in order to secure immunity were liable to be taken at sea. The payment of blackmail, disguised as presents or ransoms, did not always secure safety with these faithless barbarians. The most powerful states in Europe condescended to make payments to them and to tolerate their insults. Religious orders— the Redemptionists and Lazarites— were engaged in working for the redemption of captives and large legacies were left for that purpose in many countries. The continued existence of this African piracy was indeed a disgrace to Europe, for it was due to the jealousies of the powers themselves. France encouraged them during her rivalry with Spain; and when, she had no further need of them they were supported against her by Great Britain and Holland. In the 18th century British public men were not ashamed to say that Barbary piracy was a useful check on the competition of the weaker Mediterranean nations in the carrying trade. When Lord Exmouth sailed to coerce Algiers in 1816, he expressed doubts in a private letter whether the suppression of piracy would be acceptable to the trading community. Every power was, indeed, desirous to secure immunity for itself and more or less ready to compel Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, Salé and the rest to respect its trade and its subjects. In 1655 the British admiral, Robert Blake, was sent to teach them a lesson, and he gave the Tunisians a severe heating. A long series of expeditions was undertaken by the British fleet during the reign of Charles II, sometimes single-handed, sometimes in combination with the Dutch. In 1682 and 1683 the French bombarded Algiers. On the second occasion the Algerines blew the French consul from a gun during the action. An extensive list of such punitive expeditions could be made out, down to the American operations of 1801-5 and 1815. But in no case was the attack pushed home, and it rarely happened that the aggrieved Christian state refused in the end to make a money payment in order to secure peace. The frequent wars among them gave the pirates numerous opportunities of breaking their engagements, of which they never failed to take advantage.

After the general pacification of 1815, the suppression of African piracy was universally felt to be a necessity. The insolence of a Tunisian squadron which sacked Palma in the island of Sardinia and carried off 158 of its inhabitants, roused widespread indignation. Other influences were at work to bring about their extinction. Great Britain had acquired Malta and the Ionian Islands and had now many Mediterranean subjects. She was also engaged in pressing the other European powers to join with her in the suppression of the slave trade which the Barbary states practised on a large scale and at the expense of Europe. The suppression of the trade was one of the objects of the congress of. Vienna. Great Britain was called on to act for Europe, and in 1816 Lord Exmouth was sent to obtain treaties from Tunis and Algiers. His first visit produced diplomatic documents and promises and he sailed for England. While he was negotiating, a number of British subjects had been brutally ill-treated at Bona, without his knowledge. The British government sent him back to secure reparation, and on the 27th of August, in combination with a Dutch squadron under Admiral Van de Capellen, he administered a smashing bombardment to Algiers. The lesson terrified the pirates both of that city and of Tunis into’ giving up over 3000 prisoners and making fresh promises. But they were not reformed and were not capable of reformation. Algiers renewed its piracies and slave-taking, though on a smaller scale, and the measures to be taken with it were discussed at the conference or congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818. In 1824 another British fleet under Admiral Sir Hairy Neal had again to bombard Algiers. The great pirate city was not in fact thoroughly tamed till its conquest by France in 1830.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911.


Burke’s Royal Families of the World II Africa & The Middle East, London 1980.

Grosse, Philip, The History of Piracy, Tudor, 1934.

R. F. Tapsell, Monarch Rulers Dynasties and Kingdoms of the World, Thames and Hudson, London 1983.

Peter Lamborn Wilson, Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs & European Renegadoes. 1995 Autonomedia. 210 pp. The author focuses on the corsairs’ most impressive accomplishment, the independent Pirate republic of Salé, in Morocco, in the 17th century.

Contents : I. Pirate & Mermaid, II. A Christian Turn’d Turk, III. Democracy by Assssination, IV. A Company of Rogues, V. An Alabaster Palace in Tunisia, VI. The Moorish Republic of Salé, VII. Murad Reis & the Sack of the Baltimore, VIII. The Corsair’s Calendar, IX. Pirate Utopias, Bibliography.

Roll Family Database Link
Jan Janszoon Van Haarlem

Anthony Jansen Van Salee
Hazel Van Dyke Roberts, Ph. D. has a detailed biography of Jan Janszoon's son Anthony Van Salee, the most unusual and interesting figure in the New Amsterdam records. You will enjoy reading this even if you are not related to the Van Salee family.

Morocco Web
Political History
Morroco Web is a beautifully crafted site with an excellent exposition of the various dynastic periods in Morocco, with timelines and maps. If you are just beginning to learn about the history of the region, this is the place to start.

Isle of Tortuga
Dutch Pirates
Interested in pirates? Here is a site with a rather complete overview, including pages about Jan Janszoon Van Haarlem and his colleagues.